Community pharmacy sector leaders are hoping that a new supply of additional lateral flow tests (LFT) being supplied to pharmacies by the Government should help to meet the current demand.
PSNC confirmed on Wednesday (5 January) that LFT deliveries to pharmacies are set to rise by a third under new Government plans amid huge demand.
In an update, the negotiating body said that the Government is currently ‘finalising plans’ to incorporate a second delivery partner to the test distribution scheme to increase the number of LFTs pharmacies receive each week.
PSNC said the logistics company and courier ParcelForce has been chosen to help deliver an additional 3.5 million test kits each week. These tests will be delivered on top of the 10.5 million tests pharmacies already receive each week from Alliance Healthcare.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), told The Pharmacist she believed the additional 3.5 million test kits should mean pharmacies can meet demand.
‘The extra tests should be sufficient to take us forward and should mean that pharmacies can keep up with the increased demand from the public following the Government's change in guidelines,’ she explained.
Yesterday, the Government announced that asymptomatic people in England who test positive for Covid with a lateral flow test will no longer be required to take a follow-up PCR test to confirm the result.
Dr Hannbeck said the change was ‘bound’ to increase demand for the test kits ‘even further’.
‘These tests are now, more than ever, essentially the key to people’s freedom. I think as long as that is in place the demand for lateral flow tests will be very high’, she explained.
‘The additional test kits should be enough, but the Government must be flexible in increasing this number if guidelines are changed again. Supply must be sufficient so that we do not have to send patients away,’ she added.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously promised to increase lateral flow test deliveries to 300 million in January, up from the 100 million planned before the Omicron variant was discovered. However, this plan has not yet been put into action.
Zoe Long, director of communications and public affairs at PSNC pointed out that pharmacies are continuing to face ‘near-constant demand for lateral flow tests which they are still often unable to meet’.
‘This is putting significant pressure on pharmacy teams, and we are also really concerned about continuing reports of verbal abuse, especially where members of the public are not aware that having a code does not guarantee that supply is available.
She added: ‘We do hope that these further steps to increase supply will start to have a positive impact soon, but in the meantime, we will continue to raise concerns with the UKHSA on an ongoing basis.
This week, The Pharmacist reported that supplies of lateral flow tests have remained ‘patchy’ in pharmacies across England, following the surge in demand over the Christmas period.
Pharmacies in England have struggled to keep up with a huge surge in demand for Covid tests after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on the increasing threat of the Omicron variant last month (12 December).
In the same briefing, the Government announced that contacts of Omicron cases would be allowed to avoid a 10-day self-isolation period by taking daily LFTs